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January 2000

View From the End (User)

By: Don Eitner (freiheit@tstonramp.com) The 13th Floor - http://www.tstonramp.com/~freiheit/

The Year That Was

If you are reading this, then the world did not end on January 1, 2000. *grin* So let me welcome you to the 4th calendar year of the VOICE Newsletter and the View From the End (User)! Break out your leftover Martinelli's sparkling cider and enjoy a relaxed but enthusiastic look at last year's best OS/2 releases as well as what we OS/2 users have to look forward to in the coming year.

PMView 2.0, as reviewed here early last year, should have gone gold by the time you read this. If not, I can only assume last minute bugs or registration code issues have hung it up yet again. As an avid beta tester throughout the year, I saw this product grow and expand in ways I never thought possible, and nearly every new feature has been useful in my graphics design and manipulation work. It may not be ready to tackle PhotoShop's market, but for US$40 I feel I acquired an incredible product with tremendous future potential. Every single one of my readers is encouraged to buy a license of PMView either for OS/2 or Windows (or both) and to show it off mercilessly to any and all of your friends and colleagues, encouraging them to purchase their own licenses. I have rarely been as excited about an OS/2 program as I am about PMView and I see no shame in applauding the excellent programming skills of Mr. Peter Nielsen. http://www.pmview.com

Another splendid program, PMMail/2, received a minor update to v2.1 in the latter part of the year. Nothing amazing in the upgrade but it does offer a little more flexibility in scripting filters, bug fixes, and of course updated contact information since the program changed hands from SouthSoft, Inc. to Blueprint Software Works. This version won't change your life, unless you're still using an old 1.9x release, but it's worth checking out at http://www.blueprintsoftwareworks.com/products.html

Who could forget the release of Netscape Communicator 4.61 for OS/2? This was a hefty update from the 4.04 release and is well worth the download! For those still using the ancient 2.02 release of Navigator, 4.61 brings back the full drag and drop support and adds to it support for the PNG graphic format, updated HTML and JavaScript support, more powerful and flexible e-mail and newsgroup modules, and the What's Related tool which acts as an "intelligent" search engine, providing a list of links related to the site you are currently viewing with the aid of Netscape's own internet portal site. The documentation for 4.61 does not mention OS/2 Warp 3 support, but it does mention Warp Server 4 which is based on the Warp 3 codebase, so it's safe to assume it would work on Warp 3 just that you wouldn't get any official support for it from IBM (as if you would anyway).

Perhaps of least importance to the average OS/2 user, OS/2 Warp Server For eBusiness (Warp Server 4.5) was released in the first half of 1999 with a wealth of new server oriented features, a slightly (very slightly) touched up user interface compared to the Warp 4 client we all know and love, and updated 32-bit networking support which was previously available only as a separate package from IBM. Warp Server For eBusiness would probably be a nice upgrade from the current Warp client, but the cost is well over US$1,000, placing it well out of the price range of most home and SOHO users. On the plus side, if you can afford it, you won't need to apply fixpack after fixpack to gain year 2000 compliance, the latest Java virtual machine, support for the Euro currency symbol, and efficient networking protocols which resist even the most ferocious service attacks that bring down Windows systems worldwide on a daily basis. It's all available in the one install process, the way Warp 4 was compared to Warp 3. In WSeB you also get the ability to manage Windows NT servers (yes, servers not just workstations) so if you've got a business with multiple departmental servers, WSeB can work alongside them or as a master server overseeing and protecting the entire operation.

Finally, Styler/2 http://acsoft.ghostbbs.cx/ made its way into the shareware market with a registerable version 1.0 late in the year. Styler/2 used to be called SmartWindows and provides a number of WorkPlace Shell enhancements to title bars, buttons, window sizing and positioning, and more. If you've ever thought the default Warp 3 or 4 interface was kind of drab or even ugly, you should most certainly give Styler/2 a try! What it can do for OS/2's look and feel is enough to make me wonder why IBM did such a terrible job designing interface elements in the first place. Styler/2 is small and easily configurable, allowing the user to add his or her own title bar and button images beyond the wealth that are included with the program.

The Year That Could Be

The coming year looks rather grim for OS/2. More than just a couple of developers have jumped ship due to inadequacies in IBM's development tools for OS/2. I suppose since IBM couldn't kill it off with a total lack of marketing, they realized the potential to kill it off by under-developing development tools and thereby throttling 3rd party programs that might have used new features which are found in the Windows versions of the tools.

That and IBM steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the potential market for OS/2. Even after years of misleading and irresponsible press and IBM's lack of dedication, OS/2 outsells IBM's expectations. Rather than put even the slightest effort into fostering this greater-than-expected interest on the part of PC users by providing sensible updates to the OS, IBM has withdrawn further and yanked some of the most popular free add-ons (like Netscape Communicator and Java) out of the freeware market and into the Software Choice by-subscription-only service which has produced very little of interest over the past two years. As of this writing, it remains to be seen whether the system fixpacks will be placed into the subscription section as well.

So don't expect a new Warp 4.5 client to go along with Warp Server For eBusiness.

But there is always a bright spot if you look hard enough! Project Odin http://www.netlabs.org/odin (the Win32-OS/2 application converter) has received a new update and promises more to come this year, so it just might be possible to convert a few truly useful Windows programs into OS/2 programs to avoid having to use such an inferior operating system. Another, similar, project known as EverBlue is porting Linux/X11 tools to the OS/2 Presentation Manager to allow for easier porting of X-based applications to PM. Assuming both projects live up to their expectations, OS/2 is far from useless. In fact its usefulness will increase as hundreds if not thousands of newly ported applications flood onto the scene. Such applications currently consist of the Opera web browser and GIMP, the open-source Adobe PhotoShop work-alike. Odin has reportedly been successful in getting Lotus Notes R5 to load (but not yet fully functional) under OS/2 as well as perfectly converting CDRLabel 4.1 with full support for both designing and printing CD labels, Adobe Acrobat Distiller 3.01 for creating PDF documents, the Windows Help system, and even Microsoft Word 6.0 (NT 3.51 edition) is said to work!

So when you look at it, the only developer not moving OS/2 forward is IBM. Most of the so-called 3rd party developers, Peter Nielsen http:www.pmview.com, BluePrint Software Works http://www.blueprintsoftware.com/, OS/2 Netl@bs http://www.netlabs.org and countless others, are making OS/2 more useful every week without IBM's assistance! OS/2 users and enthusiasts around the world continue to celebrate OS/2's vitality with an annually-increasing number of OS/2-specific conventions such as Warpstock, Warpstock Europe, Warp Expo West, and this year's coming Phoenix OS/2 Society WarpTech http://www.possi.org/warptech/.

And through it all, V.O.I.C.E. is here reporting the great news to you and allowing you avenues to voice your opinions and needs for OS/2's past, present and future. Though our official anniversary may be in the midst of springtime, 2000 marks our 4th year covering your world. We are unveiling new features such as WarpDoctor where users can post questions to OS/2 experts in specific fields and access the tremendous wealth of knowledge available across the internet which makes OS/2 truly useful in our daily lives.

But we couldn't do it without all of you. And you couldn't do it if OS/2 wasn't the all around best operating system money could buy throughout the 1990's. With or without IBM's consent, OS/2 will remain strong and viable for a wide range of uses for several years to come. Beyond that point, Linux might eventually manage to become user friendly and BeOS might acquire hundreds of new developers and far better hardware support to replace OS/2 on all of our systems. But I know I'm not giving up my OS/2 anytime soon.

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